The Washington Times reported on Monday that a district court has refused to halt part of President Obama’s immigration program that allows spouses of legal guest workers from seeking employment in the United States. Federal District Judge Tanya S. Chutkan ruled that a claim by a group of technology workers that they were being displaced by foreign workers was “highly speculative.” The Obama administration has also refused to consider what seems to be a growing problem for American high-tech workers who are finding themselves out of a job in favor of cheaper foreign guest workers under the H-1B visa system. The spouses will now be able to work under the H4 visa system.
The H-1B program allows some foreign guest workers who have high tech skills, such as information technology or engineering, into the United States to apply for jobs that are not being filled by American citizens. However, increasingly, some companies are using the program as a cost cutting tool to lay off more highly compensated American workers and replace them with cheaper foreign workers. The economy is simply not growing enough to accommodate an influx of foreign guest workers. So Americans are finding themselves out of a job to make way for the foreign workers instead.
The most controversial example of this phenomenon took place recently at Disney Parks and Resorts when some IT workers were laid off and replaced with H1-B workers. Indeed, the American workers were forced to train their replacements and had their severance pay made contingent on maintaining a “good attitude.” Disney claims that the intent is not to displace American workers, but rather to move them to managerial and other positions. Those positions, by and large, and not materialized. Southern California Edison and the Fossil Group have undertaken similar moves.
The practice, which may be against federal law, has thus far not gotten the attention of the Obama administration, despite the demands of a bi-partisan group of senators. The White House seems more keen to attract as many immigrants as possible, both legal and otherwise, than protecting Americans’ jobs.
The growing practice presents a quandary for the Republican presidential candidates. Marco Rubio and Jeb Bush, considered immigration reformists, are in favor of expanding the H-1B program. Even Ted Cruz, a hawk on illegal immigration, is in favor of expanding legal immigration programs that bring in more highly skilled foreign workers. The policy would be great in a booming economy, but not so much in the current state of economic malaise, Republicans, therefore, may miss a great opportunity to attack an Obama policy that hurts American workers.